Australia v South Africa, 2nd Test, Melbourne, 4th day December 29, 2008

Hayden must go

If Matthew Hayden does not decide to end his career after this match, Australia's selectors must be brave enough to finish it for him

If the MCG Test turns out to be Hayden's send-off it will already be a more fitting exit than other former players received, for Melbourne has been his favourite venue © Getty Images

If Matthew Hayden does not decide to end his career after this match, Australia's selectors must be brave enough to finish it for him. In the increasingly likely event that South Africa win the series in Melbourne and the Sydney Test becomes a dead rubber, it would be the perfect time to audition a new partner for Simon Katich in a low-pressure situation.

It's a shame that it has come to this but Hayden's struggle has become so difficult to watch and such a concern for his middle-order colleagues that he can't go on. They are already trying to carry an unfit Andrew Symonds and a weak Hayden adds significantly to the burden. Great players earn credits at the selection table but like a blackjack player running out of chips, Hayden's failures in the Boxing Day Test have been two busts too many.

Even if Australia somehow avoid defeat at the MCG - final-day rain looks like their only chance - there is merit in throwing a fresh face into the Sydney Test. Look what happened when South Africa gave JP Duminy a chance. And with a trip to South Africa fast approaching and the Ashes in England to follow, Australia cannot support an out-of-form opener any longer.

Hayden has made two half-centuries from 15 innings since returning to the Test side for the tour of India after recovering from an ongoing heel injury. In Australia's four home Tests this summer he has 79 runs at 11.28. His lean run pales in comparison with the infamous slump of another left-hand opener, Mark Taylor, who from 1995 to 1997 went 21 Test innings without passing fifty.

Taylor was extremely fortunate to keep his position but he had two things on his side: he was the captain of a winning outfit and at 33 it was felt he had several good years left. At 37 and in a team that is starting to lose more than it wins, Hayden has neither get-out clause.

Nor is there room for sympathy. A farewell Test at the SCG would be a sentimental moment but Australian selectors have not been noted for their compassion in previous seasons. Ian Healy's last Test was in Zimbabwe and he was denied the chance to say goodbye with one final match at his home ground the Gabba.

Mark Waugh ended with a Test in Sharjah, though he didn't know it was his finale. He wanted to play on for the 2002-03 Ashes; the selectors did not pick him and he took the hint and retired. If the MCG Test turns out to be Hayden's send-off it will already be a more fitting exit than Healy and Waugh received; Melbourne has been Hayden's favourite venue.

But does the new group of selectors under Andrew Hilditch have the same clinical approach as the panel did when Trevor Hohns was in charge? They should remember that when Healy was nudged aside, his replacement Adam Gilchrist won over the Brisbane crowd by the end of his first match. The Australia players had a new match-winner in their side. Fans and team-mates move on.

And how will they ever know if there's another star waiting in first-class cricket unless they try him? The New South Wales opener Phillip Hughes, 20, is having a phenomenal season. He's the same age that AB de Villiers was when he made his Test debut and Australia need only think back a week to realise what de Villiers has learnt in four years on the international scene.

Does the new group of selectors under Andrew Hilditch have the same clinical approach as the panel did when Trevor Hohns was in charge? They should remember that when Healy was nudged aside, his replacement Adam Gilchrist won over the Brisbane crowd by the end of his first match. Fans and team-mates move on

Then there's Chris Rogers, who played the Perth Test last summer before losing his Cricket Australia contract. He is 31, but a switch of states has revitalised him and he is averaging 82.62 this season. In any case, Phil Jaques should be fit by the time the Ashes comes around and he and Simon Katich can form a strong partnership. It would be useful to have a backup who has had a decent taste of the action.

When Hayden was caught driving to short cover for 23, he trudged off the MCG with his head bowed. It was not the exit he envisaged and injuries to Brett Lee and Symonds might yet save him for Sydney. Australia will be loath to lose three long-standing players in one Test.

Symonds carried a knee problem into the Boxing Day Test and was tentative in the field and unable to bowl medium-pace. His scores of 27 and 0 will increase the calls for Shane Watson to replace him. If both a hobbling Symonds and his great mate Hayden play in Sydney it will be a poor reflection on the selectors. Opportunities for risk-free change don't come often in Australian cricket. This chance cannot be let to slip.

Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Murray on January 1, 2009, 12:15 GMT

    I am pleased that I'm not the only one to recognise Hayden has benefited from favourable umpiring decisions, as did most of the Aussies under Bucknor and Koertzen for many years. Maybe no coincidence that they are starting to falter without them there, although most got themselves out thanks to poor shot selection in the 2nd Test. Hayden has a fantastic record but it will forever be argued that most runs came against much weaker opposition and he struggled against quality bolwing. At 37 and after a bad form, it is time to step aside, but like old boxers, the inflated egos and cash incentives become obstacles and they play on and on until ultimately disgraced and beaten by younger fitter man and fade out as a loser by which they are remembered. I think it absolutely farcial and selfish that Hayden stated he wants to play at the Ashes, a plan supported by a clearly inept selection panel, and expects the fans to get behind him. Now is time to "walk" and be remembered as a champion Matt

  • James on January 1, 2009, 11:46 GMT

    The game is played by players and Haydos can retire when the players, including him, decide. Cricket played by selectors is a nebulous and unsatisfying concept.

  • Parimal on December 31, 2008, 3:18 GMT

    Yes, As such I am not a great fan of Hayden. He score most of his run in a couple of series at home and most of the time he benefitted umpiring mishaps. He will be able to make runs only if bucknor get back to umpire a game. He is lucky to get compared with some of the greats but does he deserve that ? oh hell NO what he deserves is a big boot on his backside.. off you go.. Haydo.. pds

  • simon on December 30, 2008, 11:33 GMT

    The Australian bowling attack has been decimated by the retirement of key players and the batting has been unable to provide the inadequate bowling, which has failed to provide or defend totals, with adequate totals to defend. Add to this the retirements in recent years of the batting line-up and they find themselves here. What happened to the Academy of which we heard so much in the heady years of series-to-series victories over all-comers and where are the players that we heard it was producing? Ambidextrous bowlers was something I read about. What they'd give for 1 more player of world class in any department now to relieve some pressure. At the end of the day, domination of any sport, is only sustainable for as long as it lasts, others will catch up over time or you will be found out in one way or another. Hayden has had a great run, but it's over. Australia are still a good side, but no longer a great one. The revolution is welcome for cricket fans the world over.

  • Mathew on December 30, 2008, 6:34 GMT

    I agree with most of you that Hayden *had* a great career. But it is coming to a close. At 37, out of form, and getting bad luck aswell it is time for him to retire. As the article stated, Australia are no longer the winning side they once were. We cannot afford to carry dead weight players, hoping they regain form. This is a professional competition, not some backyard shin-dig. You don't perform, your dropped, its that simple. Hayden has been given enough chances (albeit with some bad luck), but it is time to inject some fresh blood in the side. If Hayden wants to play for Australia again, he should go back to state level and *earn* his way back. Regain his form and prove himself that he is good enough to compete with the best. To be the best, you need to have the best. Hayden is no longer fits that role. There are good state level players who deserve a shot. Young players who can mature and become greats. We've got two tough series left, SA and the Ashes. Let's not blow it.

  • hayden on December 30, 2008, 6:24 GMT

    this article should be hilditch its time to go!!! seriously johnston is the only bowler who should have played this test! krezja should have been the spinner, siddle not that he was the worst in the match, but how on earth is he being selected before more worthy quicks playing in the domestic comp??? and lee quite clearly wasnt right before the test. symonds isnt capable of being the allrounder due to injury and also shouldnt have played! we have noffkee the leading wicket taker domesticly last year and he can do more than just hold a bat, bracken the WORLD NUMBER 1 ODI bowler at present! why he has not been given another shot at tests is beyond me??? he has experience and that is exactly what the aussie attack needs!!! and the list doesnt stop there bollinger, tait, hilfenhaus, geeves, macgoffin, ryan harris and the list goes on! even james hopes has done some good things in the one day team, how about giving him a go at 6? hilditch & co have alot to answer for not just the players.

  • Arun on December 30, 2008, 6:17 GMT

    Dravid and Hayden are in different situations.. Dravid is being carried by a winning team, while Hayden is burdening a losing one.

    Always felt that Hayden was a beneficiary of the brilliance of Warne, McGrath and Gilchrist... really! Couldn't digest the fact that he was spoken in the same sentence as Tendulkar and Lara once.

  • Michael on December 30, 2008, 6:10 GMT

    Of course Hayden should go. Yes he has been a great player for Australia, but we are losing series now. It's not as though we are winning games and we can keep players like Hayden in the side just so they can get a "proper" send off. If the selectors keep Hayden in the side, what message does it give to players like Chris Rogers and Phillip Hughes who have been outstanding this year ? Bite the bullet and give guys a go that are in form. David Hussey is another that should be given a go, he is just like his brother and look at what he has done since he has come into the test team. Put David Hussey in to replace Symonds who is injured. He may not be an allrounder but Symonds hasn't been bowling anyway.

  • Chamara on December 30, 2008, 5:49 GMT

    Hayden is a great he should have another chance to play.It is not good to take decisions that much of faster to axe hayden due to the pressure of the media.

  • Lance on December 30, 2008, 5:26 GMT

    No I certainly do not. Brydon Coverdale, I've searched the history books and don't see your name in the Australian players list. Alas this means you are just a journo. Australian selectors, team mates and supporters owe this legend of the game. He'll be in Sydney, South Africa and then belting the Poms in England, then he'll retire in Brisbane next year where he deserves to leave the game. Hang tough Haydos & thank god modern day players ignore articles & comments in papers, web sites and from ex players. I'll be in Sydney to see him score test century number 31

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